Oct 4, 2006

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we're all done here. new blog at:


please update your bookmarks, hyperlinks, etc.

paul autonomic

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Apr 23, 2006

Northern Mystikz

paul.meme on:
dead flesh propelled by a wholly artificial electricity
a Mystikal experience in Sheffield last night...

Paul says: For what Digital Mystikz share with both the Abyssinians and Shaka is that to go see them play is to experience spiritual healing. In my opinion, the Mystikz and Shaka in particular are not just fucking around when they drop relentlessly hard, pounding, one-note bass skankers; it’s not just some metallic testosterone work-out; they’re deliberately putting you in a different spiritual place. It’s like there is SOMETHING LIVING IN THE MUSIC, something really good and strong and powerful.

Dubstep is doing something very special right now and I don’t know how long the beauty of the current scene will last – two years? Three? Forever? – but if you have any opportunity at all to go and experience it, you should seize it.

I did. And it was one of the most profound(ly inspiring, physical, emotional) musical experiences I've ever had. I'll be coming back for more as soon as possible. And, from the sounds of it, May's Kode 9 show in TO could just be the first in a series of big events put together by the sub:trac crew. These are exciting times and I haven't cared this much about music for over a decade. Catch it while you can.

If you haven't already heard Paul's 'Dubstep Sufferah' mix you should track it down. (Write up here. Audio at Barefiles - make sure to read his commentary before listening) Like me, Paul spends weeks finely editing his tracks and meshing them together using Ableton Live. The difference is that his decades of immersion in UK sound system culture contribute a dubwise sensibility to his mix that I could only hope to approximate.

Spring Forward >>

And (quite belatedly) if you didn't catch my recent mix for Riddim.ca's first birthday (which I had to take down after doing 50GB in five days!) you can now grab it at Barefiles thanks to Deapoh. The write up is still up at Gutterbreakz.

Nick: Funnily enough, the mix begins with Shackleton's "Naked", a track that Paul had actually cut on dubplate. The fact that he then fed this eminently mixable platter into a digital multitrack has a strangely perverse logic about it.

That's it right there, dematerialisation of the dubplate...

Autonomic Computing

Shackleton - Naked (dubplate / Skull Disco)
Headhunter - New Dawn (cd-r)
Wedge - Overfiend (cd-r)
Loefah - Root (DMZ)
Headhunter - Hidden Agenda (cd-r)
Distance - Taipan (Boka)
Loefah - The Goat Stare (DMZ)
Distance - Fallen (Boka)
Scuba - Timba (Scuba/crack bong chop)
Distance - Empire (Hotflush/spectral mash)
Chunky Bizzle - Tools Too Big (white/edit)
Appleblim - Cheat I (Skull Disco)
Loefah & Skream - 28 Grams (Tectonic/edit)
Skream - Request Line (Tempa)
Request Line Outro Refux
Shackleton - Stalker (Mordant)
Hidden Agenda - Fish Eggs (Reinforced)
Digital Mystikz - Neverland (DMZ)
Burial - South London Borroughs (Hyperdub)
Kode 9 + Benny Ill - Fat Larry's Skank (Tempa)
Coki - Mood Dub (DMZ/edit)
Appleblim - Girder (Skull Disco/edit)
Macabre Unit - Tensor Jam (Terrorhythm)
Dizzee - Go (white/edit)
Skream - I (Tempa/dubsetter edit)
Distance - Saints and Sinners (Boka)
Loefah - Truly Dread (Tempa)
Jason Mundo - I Stand Rasta (cd-r/edit)
Kode 9 + Space Ape - Kingstown (Hyperdub)
Distance - Dark Crystal (Boka/edit)
Shackleton - Blood On My Hands (cd-r/edit / Skull Disco)

Apr 16, 2006

Interblog Burial

Very interesting post by K-Punk on the soon-come Burial album on Hyperdub. This is my response. Dissensus is the comment box...

EDIT: More thoughts on Burial and kind words on my post from k-punk.

k-punk: I actually, genuinely can't believe how good this album is... I'm having trouble listening to anything else, and every time I do listen to it, I find something new in it.

This is what I've been experiencing with the Breezeblock set, sometimes listening on repeat for a couple of hours at a time. I'm mesmerised by it - like it doesn't matter if I hear anything else. I certainly don't feel like I should bother making music anymore because everything I might have wanted to do is here. That sounds hyperbolic, but I've only felt this way maybe once or twice before with an album. The last one was the first Boards of Canada album for a lot of the reasons mentioned in the Ghost Box discussion. On MHTRTC there's a lilt in second track where time seems to split in two. That's what I keep feeling when I hear the wordless vocal in 'Forgive' (? - 3:00 into the BB set). Gravity and Weightlessness.

But this sensibility in Burial is closer to early jungle's contradictory pull/propulsion - the gravity of the bass + breaks that operate as hauntological shards and futurhythmachine at the same time. As a hauntological music I see a major difference between Burial on one hand, and BOC and Ghost Box on the other. With the latter the emphasis in on nostalgia, even if it's a cold, impersonal one at times. The uncertainty hinges on a potential past felt in a blur of media and childhood memories that could have been had or later inferred. Whereas Burial's nostalgia drives into the future. It reminds me of a car purposefully moving through a cold wet city night while a passenger stares, heart-in-throat, out the back window, remembering places and people as they pass. There's a sense of the future being a necessity in Burial (and ghostly parallel futures just as much) whereas BOC and GB are cocoon-like.

Other thoughts: The link to EVP is right on. In Burial's music there's a sense of immersion in a density of signal and of searching for meaningful threads. I've also just realised that, for me, sonically, it's vividly reminiscent of growing up in Winnipeg near the train yards, and hearing their horns and screeches wafting for miles through the thick summer air. So, there we go, back to childhood.

But one thing that I've been thinking about for the last while is the value of this idea of a hardcore continuum. Even tracing a continuous line between actual developments in British dance musics over the last two decades is difficult enough. I'd say there are multiple, intersecting lines of flight and that those get so tangled up from time to time that radically mutated threads end up spinning out. But then consider the lost and parallel threads that Burial illustrates. Feminine pressure, for example, can be seen as a tendency that periodically coincides with these threads but is repeatedly ejected from the main streams for the same reasons. I know the 'nuum is easy shorthand for the major developments in British dance music, but I think it also hides too much of the chaos and the politics.

I think Mark and Burial himself are absolutely right that his tracks bring an uncommon emotional depth and texture to dubstep when it has, in some quarters, become overly concerned with sonic purity ("austerity') and reproducing some of the dead-end, inhuman elements of techstep. But to characterise dubstep on the whole in that way is too broad. Digital Mystikz, Skull Disco, Kode 9 and Distance come to mind immediately as examples of dubstep artists trying quite successfully to avoid dirge and the amputation of emotion. Personally, I think the splits are going to start happening soon, the way they did in DnB, but with somewhat different results.

Finally, Mark's comment on dubstep deploying dub-as-positive-entity is also interesting. I wonder if this is part of the reason for John Eden (according to his posts about it) not having much interest in the music. But I think dubstep is an exercise in subtraction-in-process of a different sort. Instead of literally dubbing out a vocal or instrument, it's dubbing the formal elements of 2step/early-dubstep itself. Halfstep (which will, admittedly, run itself into the ground if it becomes the ideal) is probably the most pronounced example of this. The missing percussive elements are still experienced but as a known absence, and they're often gestured at in the science of the bass.

Mar 23, 2006

Dub vector

Too often, high profile mix CDs seem to come up short in reproducing the excitement of their scene. Whatever gains they make in sound quality and mixological precision are typically muted in the anechoic confinement of the studio. Music made for clubs and pirate radio can't help but sound a bit lonely when the audience is amputated from the mix, especially in genres that rely so heavily on the feedback network of producer-DJ-MC-crowd. Sometimes an MC will be added to liven up the mix, but when it's all calls and no response the performance comes off a bit like virtual reality - lots of shiny surfaces, but something's missing.

Of course the format isn't inherently flawed either. A big mix is a big mix. In the last three years, Tempa has released three sets that have become defining documents of dubstep as it's grown out of its Croydon home. Hatcha's 2003 mix for Dubstep Allstars 1 was the sound of a new music taking flight, while last year's follow up by Youngsta was a little more restrained - a scene taking stock and consolidating its core. Both were crucial releases but they still left room for experimentation - something between the regular studio mix and the recorded live set.


With Allstars 3, Kode 9 and Space Ape try to move beyond the traditional DJ mix format and sidestep some of its pitfalls. On the surface it may seem little different from the usual - top DJ, exclusive dubs and MC tucked away in a studio. But the innovation is in the dynamic they create. In one sense it's a closed system between DJ and MC. This has a lot to do with Space Ape's microphone style which draws on dub poetry influences (and probably grime) to create something more lyrical and self-contained than either battle-oriented grime or post-jungle toasting. This suits the format perfectly and lets the pair give up the pretence of performing to a hypothetical audience so they can set about building a machine of a different type, one with no lack, only potential.

Lyrically, Space Ape moves through the dread and Deleuzian...

Mobilised and lifted by the powers I've been gifted
Answers to questions that never even existed
Who the ras is the sum of their parts
Who should tell of this becoming-Hell

to the virology of hyperdub...

Victims themselves of a close encounter
Desperate abductors, constructors
Become an infected vex
By an alien virus

Not your typical toasts. Space Ape gives more coded insight into philosophical underpinnings of the Hyperdub kru. Then, halfway through the set, his live chatter dissolves into the mix. Disembodied, his remixed vocals become refrains echoing through the end of the set.

Mirroring this DJ/MC interaction is Kode 9's ideal of a meritocracy in dubplate selection. Rather than dropping just the biggest tracks from the biggest names, he feeds widely on the energies of this growing scene, pulling together 28 tracks by 16 artists in under 60 minutes. If there was a complaint to be had with Allstars 2 it was that, as crucial as the tracks were, they all came from a small number of producers and represented a very particular take on what dubstep could be. Allstars 3, on the other hand, is all about scenius, the energies and feedbacks that generate the scene as a whole.

The track selection is huge and the cuts are quick (few tracks go for longer than 2:00) with a lot of new producers alongside the usual suspects. The rolling spaghetti western-dub of Kode's "9 Samurai" kicks off the set before heading into a very heavy remix of Pressure & Warrior Queen's post-7/7 track "Dem a Bomb We." 9's affection for grimey bits also makes its way into the mix with tracks by Geeneus ("You Know Me" - a suspenseful lurker with plucked strings and distorted bass), Plasticman ("Unhappy Shopper" - halfstep molasses) and, surprisingly, Digital Mystikz ("Intergalactic" - shades of Dexplicit, DJ Oddz and Slimzee sets). Of course DMZ, Loefah, Skream and D1 each add their own highly refined flavours to the mix. Skream, as Loefah recently noted, has been taking some liberties with his production, pushing out the boundaries in a all sorts of mad directions. He's here in all his odd-style glory with "0800 Dub," the mashed up electro of "Colourful," and the trippy vocal cut up of "Korma." D1 follows that one with the stepping panzerbass of "ET." Mucky. Blackdown's "dis/East" could be Microstoria making dubstep in a metal shop. N-Type's epic "Way of the Dub" pushes all the right post-junglist buttons and will undoubtedly be the intro to countless mixes over the summer.

With "Forever," Calenda (aka Jason H) provides one of the most original and unlikely dubstep anthems, combining stuttered beats with an over-the-top orchestral sample used to brilliant effect. The first thing it brings to mind is the James Bond breakdown in Acen's 'ardkore anthem "Trip to the Moon 1." Mournful and euphoric at the same time. Watch out for more under the Calenda moniker. And watch out for more from the mysterious Burial who close out the set with a static-y atmospheric stepper that makes definite links to Pole and the Rhythm and Sound digidub axis.

Altogether, Kode 9 has done an excellent job showcasing a wide selection of dubstep at a moment when the scene is exploding with creativity. It also couldn't have come at a more opportune time. Dubstep's audience appears to have grown exponentially since BBC 1Xtra aired its scene-spanning Breezeblock special in January. The scene seems uncertain whether or not it's comfortable with its increasing success, but Dubstep Allstars 3, which stakes out dozens of potential evolutionary paths, will undoubtedly push the virus even further.

Mar 5, 2006

º Degrees

I'd like to be posting real things here instead of always linking to what I've done at Riddim. But the first year of a PhD combined with a pair of family illnesses aren't leaving me with much time. I have a lot of ideas but they rarely get room to breathe. If this blog comes to life again, it'll be in May or so. Or I might close it up and do something less specfically music focussed with WordPress on my own server. Thanks to anyone who still checks in sometimes.

Jan 10, 2006

Dead Can Dance

Two substantial bits by me in another Riddim.ca cross-post. First a review of Appleblim and Shackleton on the second Skull Disco release. The pair really start to diverge on this one with Shackleton further developing his rhythmic density alongside ecstatic Turkish and Ethiopian wind instruments, while Appleblim goes to the core of half-time minimalist dubstep. The second item is an interview with Appleblim where we get into darkside influences on his sound and relating to a scene from a geographically marginal position, among other things. Many thanks to Appleblim for the time he put into it, and to Shackleton for the music.

Shackleton + Appleblim
"Majestic Visions" b/w "Girder" and 'Cheat I"
Skull Disco SKULL002

Following up on their well-received but somewhat underrated debut, Skull Disco's Shackleton and Appleblim come back with an even stronger release that sees both producers refining their sounds and carving a unique space for the label.

Skull 002 opens with the clattering metallic percussion and the Eastern wind instruments (sounding like a bellowed melodica) that are becoming Shackleton's trademark. Far more in the vein of "I Am Animal" than his grimier Mordant release, "Majestic Visions" begins with halting kick-snare interplay and steadily layers-in reverb-heavy shakers and rims. Suspense builds until after the two minute mark when the drop finally comes and a percussive workout is matched with swelling sine-bass and a revving, low-end growl, broken periodically by the return of the frenzied melody. Dubwise and spacious, "Majestic Visions" is also one of the most rhythmically complex dubstep tracks about at the moment.

Appleblim contributes two pieces of dread minimalism to the flip with "Girder" and "Cheat I." Both tracks have been making the rounds on dub, getting rewinds from N-Type, Joe Nice and Paul Rose and others since the spring. Metallic and plodding, "Girder" is probably the better known of the two. A wide electric sizzle pulses through its now-familiar opening bars before a delay-washed toast incants the drop. Appleblim draws on the same darkside chill that infused his last release but this time inverts the sonic maximalism of "Mystikal Warrior." Hats and shuffled claps, thick with delay, propel a bassline that sounds like layered 808 kicks - distorted, resonating and bouncing off one another. Sparse and massive.

No less impressive is the thunderous wobbler "Cheat I." Again, percussion is sparse - stuttering kicks, elastic snares and echoing woodblocks. Resonant bells appear from time to time. This leaves lots of space for one of the most powerful and tactile basslines of the past year. Clean at the bottom, distorting through the upper-mids. Played loudly enough, it fills the chest and leaves you with a shiver. The only thing missing is the "Cheat I" sample from the dubplate version (likely a copyright casualty) which has been replaced by echoing dancehall sirens.

Skull Disco could hardly have done better following up their debut. On the strength of this release and material waiting in the wings (including Shackleton's "Limb by Limb") this should be the year that Skull Disco moves right to the centre of the dubstep fray.


Paul: Am I right that you've recently moved back to Bristol? Locals there like Pinch, Thinking and others have helped build what's probably the largest dubstep scene outside of London. How do you see the Bristol scene shaping up? Have you been playing out since you got back, or you focussing more on making tracks at the moment?

Appleblim: Bristol is wicked, though I have to say I really haven’t been there much, I have only really been there raving or record buying ( big up Rooted Records!). Its got a great vibe tho….the silly thing is I actually live in Bath, which is only 13 miles from Bristol, but may as well be 1000! There isn’t much flow between the cities…its very hard to get there and back for a night, as the trains stop stupidly early, and there ain’t no night buses down these ends!

I first heard of Pinch in the very early days, an old mate used to run Imperial Records in Bristol (now sadly defunct) and they mentioned a guy had been coming in raving about dubstep, and that he was starting to promote it in Bristol….that was Pinch and we went to his Context nights….they were bad! We saw Loefah, Distance, SLT Mob, Hotflush, and that was amazing as I couldn’t go back to London so much…Pinch really has done a huge amount for the sound….& people are loving it in Bristol…

I put Blazey and Pinch on at my Underground nights in Bath, the first of their kind in Bath, which isn’t really saying much coz at the time I think it was only me and my housemates that even knew what dubstep was! They are both just really cool enthusiastic chaps, who love pushing music….and its really working…I’ve played warming up for them and Loefah their Subloaded events, and played the room they had at the big Bristol D&B night Drive By, and am due to play with Chef at Dubloaded soon. It really is an honour to grace the decks with people I admire, so I just try my best!

Unfortunately, Uni has to come first this year, as I’m in my final year, so things a moving a little more slowly on the production front, but I do as much as I can! Look out for ‘Fear Riddim’, I think people are gonna like that one!

P: You and Shackleton are known for doing events a little differently from the norm (costumes, odd decor, etc.). Can you describe a Skull Disco party for those of us who've never been - what sort of vibe you're looking to create and how it compares to a typical DMZ or FWD event?

A: Well, I won’t speak for Shack, but yeh, we want it to be different……a place where u can shock out without havin to worry about how u look, or what people think…..Shack is very steeped in reggae and dancehall tradition, so it was important that that had a place there too….and it was in a venue that I have a long relationship with, run by friends, so its just a good local vibe for us…I lived right across the road from it for years, so it is really nice bringing our music and this whole sound there…the last one was great! There were people from the local estate where I used to live flashing their lighters and jumping up to the Spragga Benz and Elephant Man that Shack was playin, just as much as for the Loefah and Skream bits! Coki & Sgt Pokes from Digital Mystikz honoured us by playin last time, and it was just great fun….Pokes is a total vibe creator, really funny on the mic, without being stupid u know? And Coki…well….nuff said! He has built some of the heaviest rhythms of all time in my opinion, so naturally he shook the place down! Big up Coki!

P: You've mentioned elsewhere that, for you, producing this music is mainly an experiment in seeing what you can come up with and how it's received. And both you and Shackleton seem to take a refreshingly loose approach to the conventions of dubstep production when it comes to tempos, sonic materials and the frequencies you work with. When you start making a track, do you have the FWD or DMZ dancefloor in mind or are you more interested in experimenting with those conventions and seeing what comes of it?

A: Our tracks have only just started being played out really, with people like Joe Nice, N-Type, Pinch & Paul Rose repping them….i’ve never heard a track of mine dropped at FWD…it is a total dream for me, and if it ever happens I think that will affect my life hugely, and the way I make tracks… Seriously, when a place has inspired u so much, I think I would actually faint if I heard my tune coming out of those holy speakers!

Skull Disco #2

P: You've mentioned that your production setup is relatively simple - mainly step sequencing in Fruity Loops. Do you stick to a limited set of tools in order to order to push your own inventiveness? Do you feel your old punk/metal/prog roots coming through as you work?

A: I stick to limited tools because I don’t have the means to do otherwise…I’ve never been into outboard gear, simply for financial reasons…..its lazy, but it really was an experiment, a mate gave me Fruity, I got given an old PC, and I tried to make beats….strangely I come from a background in playing very mathematical, syncopated music, the band I played in were known for our refusal to play in 4:4! So that came thru in my tracks I think, I used to try and keep things irregular and not on the 8s, 16s, 32s and so on….i have had TOTAL change of heart though! I am no longer afraid of that structure…..i think I will try and craft my tracks more for the DJ in future…after all, I want people to play them!

P: "Mystikal Warrior" (from Skull 001) struck me as one of the most oddly original tracks to come out in the last year. It sounds like a nightmare: cathedral-reverb washes, discordant bleeps and a brutal mid-range synth line. The effect is totally disorienting at high volume, and the " brothers and sisters" hook comes through like a mad incantation. Although the sound is totally different, it reminds me in some ways of some of the old darkside tracks - Bizzy B's distorto-brutalism and Bay B Kane's voodooisms in "Hello Darkness."

A: I am really glad u see the whole darkcore influence….i was really into that sound, Top Buzz & Jumpin Jack Frost and so on really changed my life musically, they just blew my mind, this MASSIVE sound, totally disorientating and DARK but still rushy and danceable…it was the first rave music I heard LOUD thru a massive system, so it left a big impact on me….i love that feeling of being overwhelmed by music, so if my trax create a similar vibe I am very happy…

How do you see the track? What sort of effect were you looking to create with it?

P: How has it gone down on different dancefloors (dubstep and others)?

A: I have never heard it out! I don’t think people drop it much, but u know what, I think I’m gonna give it a try next time I play!

P: You've got two new tracks coming out in December - "Cheat I" and "Girder." "Cheat I" in particular really fits in well beside some of the wobbly-bassline stuff that Loefah and his mates have been putting out. Was your approach any different on these ones? What sort of feedback have you had since the CD-Rs went out?

A: Still just building beats really, tho I’m sure u can hear more DMZ & D1 and so on, as those are the producers I am inspired by.

Girder got played on Rinse by N-Type....that was a HUGE buzz! Me and my mate were sat round and I'd got a message off N saying he was into Girder and that he'd cut it...that was enuff for me! And we were like"is he gonna drop it?!" and literally the minute we said that we heard it being mixed in! it was a real moment for me, we were fully jumping round the room! Its weird too, hearing it all compressed, from my cd, to his dub, to the London airwaves, then squeezed down a stream into my crappy speakers, it actually sounded better! Something about the slight distortion and grainyness added to it...or maybe it was just cos it was on Rinse! Pinch dropped it at DMZ too, that was crazy, even tho there weren't many peeps there as it was really early, it was still amazing to hear it thru that system....getting the nod off Infinite and Blackdown was cool! They were like....."yeh!"

P: What do you do when you're not being Appleblim?

A: Well, like i say I’m doing Music Tech at uni here in Bath…its hard but great fun….its turned my life round really, got me active, got me producing again, given me purpose….without Uni and FWD I don’t know what I would have done. Seriously!

The rest of my time is taken up with promoting Skull Disco, and recently Sarah from Ammunition asked me to help out with press and promo at Tempa. Its just a couple of days work per release, but I think I used to hassle them so much by email saying, this journo wants this, this dj is playing that, and they thought why not make it official. Its an honour to work for one of my all time fave labels, that has inspired me so much, and i just see it as an extention of helping out with music that I love and think deserved to be more widely heard.

P: In the last year, a lot of dubstep labels (DMZ, Hotflush, Hyperdub Terrorhythm, Ital, etc.) have started to go the way of digital downloads on sites like Bleep and KarmaDownload. But Tempa has been noticeably absent. Any word on whether Ammunition is planning to get into mp3 distribution as well? How about Skull Disco?

A: You will see Skull Disco on some MP3 sites soon, for the next release I hope – not sure about Tempa but I will keep u informed

P: You've mentioned that you don't see yourself as being right in the middle of the scene, but more as a fan happy to be a part of things. Between this and being in Bristol, do message boards like the Dubstep forum and the late Dubplate.net take on extra importance when it comes to keeping in touch and staying involved?

A: They are essential…..giving people worldwide the chance to hear Rinse FM, to talk about dubs etc….its a brilliant thing….massive props to Ammuntion for the first Dubplate forum, and also to Dubway for the new one….he is a total fan and I think he can’t be thanked enufff!

P: So Skull Disco #2 is about to drop with two tracks by yourself and one by Shackleton. What can we look forward to from the label? Do you think Limb by Limb will get a release? Are you guys bringing on any new artists in the near future?

A: Yes its been a long time making, but it will be worth the hard work…..next year we are planning on a release every two months at least….we had Chef and Kode 9 booked for Skull Disco but the venue is taking it easy at the moment, due to hassle from police, but I’m sure we will find somewhere else soon…

P: We are vainly trying to get hold of Cutty’s reprasentatives, or Cutty himself, but are having no joy….if anyone can help please get in touch - infoskulldisco.com – but it WILL come out, we just want to give him his dues properly u know…..mine and Shacks friendship was forged over Cutty, and he is a near sacred figure to us! Ultimately we want to get him over to host a Skull Disco party, and to spit some exclusive lyrics for some tunes, but these are just pipe dreams at the moment…

P: Many thanks for taking the time Laurie. I really appreciate it. Braps!

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Originally published at Riddim.ca

All of the original photos used in this piece were donated by Georgina Cook (Infinite) of Drumz of the South blog. Big up to her for help out.

See more of her work at Flickr and d.o.t.s.

Dec 17, 2005


cheat i

Dec 14, 2005

scratch free

neither nor